How a Registered Dietitian Became a Champion for Nutrition and Pressure Ulcer Care
by Mary Ellen Posthauer RDN, CD, LD, FAND
When I attend wound care conferences both nationally and internationally, I am frequently asked how I became interested in nutrition and wound care. In 1995, I was involved in a quality assurance project for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – previously known as the American Dietetics Association (ADA) – examining clinical indicators associated with unintentional weight loss and pressure ulcers in elderly residents in nursing homes. The result of study was published in the ADA Journal and noted the relationship between unintended weight loss, poor dietary intake and pressure ulcers.
That same year, I was asked to represent the Academy as their first Collaborating Organization Representative to the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP). At the time I was appointed, there was no nutrition or RDN representation on the panel except for Charlotte Gallagher-Allred, who represented Abbott Laboratories (then known as Ross Laboratories) on the corporate advisory panel.
Advancing Discussions on Nutrition and Pressure Ulcers
Nutrition was a subject that was rarely discussed at the NPUAP panel meetings, but I volunteered for the education committee and began my mission for the inclusion of nutrition in their education programs and publications. The NPUAP is a volunteer “working” organization and everyone is expected to contribute his or her expertise. My pursuit paid off, and nutrition began to receive equal representation with pressure ulcer treatment and support surfaces. In 2000 I was nominated and elected to serve on the NPUAP Board of Directors and served as Secretary for two terms as well as Education Co-Chair, Chair of several Consensus Conferences and Alumni Council Representative.
In 2005 I was the first registered dietitian elected NPUAP President. As President, I had the opportunity to chair the Terms and Definitions Committee for NPUAP’s Support Surface Task Standards Initiative and negotiate the initial proposal for the joint NPUAP/EPUAP Guidelines Committee. At times, I felt like “a fish out of water” since these initiatives were not my area of expertise, but I did my research and quickly developed the confidence required. In addition to serving on both the 2009 and 2014 nutrition small work group that developed the nutrition guidelines, I was fortunate to be a contributing author on both the 2009 and 2015 white paper on the role of nutrition and pressure ulcers. My involvement paved the way for registered dietitians to assume leadership roles on the NPUAP Board so the voice of nutrition continues to resonate.
Improving the Quality of Wound Care Through Involvement
My passion for the inclusion of nutrition in pressure ulcer prevention and treatment has led to several research projects, plus numerous writing opportunities and speaking engagements both nationally and internationally. Serving on the NPUAP Board and continuing to be an active member of the wound care community has increased my understanding of the complex nature of wound care. I have the utmost respect for the clinicians and caregivers who devote their time to improving the quality of life for individuals with pressure ulcers. My personal goal is to continue promoting the inclusion of nutrition in pressure ulcer prevention and treatment strategies.
Consider how your own interests and goals as a health care professional can impact wound care. This multidisciplinary field offers many opportunities to promote advancements and education through participation in professional organizations and conferences, educational programs, and by providing leadership for initiatives within your facility.
About The Author
Mary Ellen Posthauer RDN, CD, LD, FAND is an award winning dietitian, consultant for MEP Healthcare Dietary Services, published author, and member of the Purdue University Hall of Fame, Department of Foods and Nutrition, having held positions on numerous boards and panels including the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and the American Dietetic Association's Unintentional Weight Loss work group.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.